Thursday, December 19, 2013

D2D Holiday Gift Guide

It's the most wonderful time of the year and we at D2D (see that, I gave myself a nickname) wanted to give you a cheat sheet for presents to give your loved ones this holiday season. So here are our top five Shanghai gifts to spoil your loved ones with.

1) A tea set from Spin Ceramics

I featured this store earlier in the week because frankly, I'm obsessed with it. I've made three trips here in the last two weeks and have a long wish list just for myself. Their tea sets are high quality as well as affordable and would make the perfect gift for the tea lover in your life.


2) A set of pearls

I owe you a full post on the Pearl Market at some point in the near future. Just know that you can score a set of pearls here for 80-100 rmb (depending on your bargaining skills). That's $13-16 USD for genuine fresh water pearls. Cathy at G-012 is my personal favorite.


3) A hand hammered wok

Matt bought one of these woks when visiting Shanghai in 2011 and we have treasured it ever since. I thought the shop was long gone but Nancy over at jamjnr was able to recently visit the workshop. Any foodie will simply melt when opening one of these babies.

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4) A Shanghai Calendar Girl Advertisement 

Used in the 1920's and 30's to sell cigarettes, gum, and perfume, these advertisements featured perfectly coifed, modern, beautiful women. Though the ads were meant to sell products, the pictures themselves were works of art. You can find prints for the art or history lover in your family at the Dongtai Antique Market or the Shanghai Propaganda Museum.


5) A pair of Feiyues

These iconic Shanghai shoes sell for 60 rmb (less than $10 USD) and come in various colors. Matthew and I can often be seen wearing these retro kicks around Shanghai. A pair of these shoes will make your family and friends feel like Shanghai insiders.


I hope I've inspired you to gift a few Shanghai themed presents to your loved ones this holiday season. We will be taking a break from blogging for the next two weeks to celebrate and spend time with our families and friends. We look forward to seeing you all in 2014. From our computer to yours, we wish you all a happy holiday!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Shanghai Shopping: Spin Ceramics

Upon entering Spin, you may think you have stumbled into an art gallery rather than a retail shop. Founded in 2004, Spin features reasonably priced, contemporary Chinese ceramics. Many of the products draw inspirations from Chinese culture with new designs being introduced every few months. 


The pieces themselves are manufactured in Jingdezhen, the ancient porcelain capital of China with traditional techniques dated from Ming dynasty. 

Every time I visit this shop, I walk away with a few pieces and plans to come back and buy more. Some of my family members may even find a few things from Spin under their Christmas tree this year.

To visit Spin, head to:

360 Kangding Lu, near Shanxi Bei Lu
 康定路360号, 近陕西北路

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Shanghai (half) Marathon

I'm not a runner. I enjoy working out but running is something that simply does not come naturally to me. Which is why I was shocked when I found myself finishing the Shanghai Half Marathon.

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Let me back up a little. A few months ago, Matthew mentioned he was interested in running a half marathon. Being a supportive wife, I figured I would run with him for a few weeks until his mileage was too much for me. When he headed off on a 10K training run, I told him to wait for me as I would probably end up walking the last few kilometers. But then something funny happened. I felt great after 6 km and better still at 8. I ran the full 10km and promptly signed up for the half marathon with Matthew the following week. Apparently the only person who thought I couldn't do it was me.

The half marathon itself was a lot of fun. We started our race around 7am on the iconic Bund, watching the sun rise as we braved the cold. The course then wove its way past some of Shanghai's premier tourist locations like Nanjing Pedestrian street, Jing'an Temple and the busy shopping mecca of Huaihai Lu. It was a beautiful way to see my city from a different perspective.

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There were over 35,000 runners participating which meant it took us over 15 minutes to even reach the starting line after the race started. While there were obviously a lot of people, the running lanes were wide enough throughout that I didn't find myself shoving people to get through as I have in other races I've done in China.

Costumes are a big part of the event. I saw numerous outfits including Captain America, a woman in a full pleather Catwoman suit, Sumo wrestlers, and men in animals onesies. My friend Lesley captured this photo of a group dressed as Imperial soldiers.


The spectators along the route also kept me entertained throughout the entire 21km. Numerous drumming groups were scattered throughout the course and cheers of jiā yóu could be heard the entire time. Literally translated, the phrase means "add gasoline" but has become the cheer used to encourage athletes to "go for it" or "keep it up". In front of the Nike store and the BMW showroom, both sponsors of the race, a full out party was raging with cheerleaders and a DJ.

We even had a few friends come out to cheer us on as we finished at the Shanghai Stadium.



Overall, it was a great race and one I would highly recommend to others. While the air quality wasn't great, we were lucky to finish before the levels rose to more unhealthy levels. Now that I've run my first half marathon, perhaps the Great Wall half marathon is next on my list. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


We had a few days of poor air quality last year that left me whining to my husband about our need to invest in an air purifier. I believe the conversation went something like this:

Me: This pollution is killing me. We need an air purifier.
Matthew: That's probably a good idea.
Me: But what about our cat? Her lungs are sooooo tiny. This pollution could really harm her. Don't you care about our baby?!?!
Matthew: I agree, we should really get one.
Me: cough, cough. I can hardly breathe. cough, cough
Matthew: Kristin, you're being dramatic. I already said we could buy one.

Little did I know how glad I would be for that air purifier and how silly whining about AQI (Air Quality Index) levels in the 300s would seem. This past week, we experienced pollution so intense, it registered over 500. I should mention that 500 happens to be as high as the scale will go. Our numbers were coming in beyond the index.

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The smog was thick enough to reduce visibility to 150 feet in some places. These shots from my apartment show our normal view and how hazy our neighborhood became on Friday.

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And for a more horrifying comparison, check out this photo my friend Lesley posted on her blog of visibility on the Bund.

Hazardous levels of pollution also meant adding an additional accessory to my outfit on Friday. A face mask. While the mask helped to reduce the amount of particles I was breathing in, it did little to squelch the scent of the pollution. The entire city smelled like it was on fire.

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Thankfully, colder air and some wind seem to have decreased the levels today and I'm hoping for clearer air the rest of this week. But just in case, I've purchased this panda Vogmask. If I have to cover my face, I might as well do it with cute pandas.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

An Uber Nice Ride

The taxi situation in Shanghai has been a mess lately. I had no issues with cabs during over first year here. But slowly over the past few months, I've gotten yelled at more, was thrown out of two cars, had drivers refuse to take me to my destination, and others who didn't want to use their meters. The consensus among my friends is that this is all thanks to a phone app where you can bid on fares, allowing drivers to be more selective in who they pick up and where they take them.

I refuse to use this new app for two reasons. One, I don't believe in helping to drive up the price of taxi fares which is exactly what this app is doing. And two, and the real reason to be honest, is that the app is in Chinese which I clearly am not able to read.

So what is a cab adverse girl to do when she has to go further than she cares to bike but is too lazy to take the metro? Enter Uber.

Uber is a mobile app that you can use to summon a luxury car to pick you up and take you where you want to go. You simply download the app and sign up for an account. You'll have to enter a credit card number as all transactions are cashless.

I tried out the service last week on my way to Pudong. I selected my pick up location and pressed go.

I quickly received a text message that my driver PengRong was 7 minutes away. I watched the progress of the car as it made its way to me and received a text message when it was nearby.

I waited on the corner and saw a black Audi pass by. Then it stopped and my cell phone rang. The driver informed me he had arrived and I waved from across the street.

The smartly dressed driver hopped out of the front seat to open my door and I settled in for my ride. I was happy to find an immaculate interior, kitted out with a fresh smelling air freshener (much better than the usual stale vomit and smoke taxis tend to favor), bottled water, and more importantly, a cell phone charger. Seriously? I was stoked.

I watched our car move along the route via the in app map as the charge on my cell phone went up.

When we arrived at our destination, the driver pushed a couple of buttons on his phone and I received an email receipt detailing my trip. No cash was exchanged and with a friendly farewell, my driver was off for his next pickup.

So here is the thing. Uber is not as cheap as a taxi. My fare would easily have been half the price if I used a cab. But the big difference here is that the service is incredible and you are riding in style. Will I use Uber for all my transportation needs? No. But I will use it again, especially for special occasions or on days when I simply don't feel like dealing with the poor quality of Shanghai taxis.

I had such a great experience that I asked the kind people at Uber to offer up a discount for my readers. Enter the code donuts to your Uber order and you'll be granted 50 rmb off your ride.

And if all of this isn't enough to convince you that Uber is a pretty cool company, you should know that for National Cat Day in the US, they delivered kittens to your office for snuggles. I die.

Disclaimer: Uber provided me with a voucher for a free ride, however, this review and all the opinions reflected are my own.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Street Eats: Lillian Bakery

Chinese sweets often leave something to be desired. I've been offered dessert numerous times only to be disappointed when I am served a bowl of red bean paste. Good but not exactly the ice cream sundae I was hoping for.

Thankfully, one snack that never disappoints is an egg custard tart from Lillian Bakery.


A flaky crust filled with sweet, soft custard, these treats are the perfect afternoon snack. Or pre dinner appetizer. Or you know, a good idea anytime you happen to pass by the bakery.


My mother was so enthralled with these, we stopped three days in a row to try them. But at 4 rmb each (or $.66 USD), buying a box is never a regret.


Try out these delectable treats at one of many locations around town including:

868 Huaihai Zhong Lu

B1/F, New World Mall, 2-68 Nanjing Xi Lu

1688 Sichuan Bei Lu

Monday, November 18, 2013

Phuket: Muay Thai

I'm not a violent person. Really. But for some reason, going to a Muay Thai fight was on the top of my list for Phuket. While there are numerous spots to see a fight, we opted for a Sunday night event at Bangla Boxing Stadium in downtown Patong.

Muay Thai is a lot like traditional boxing, only with knees, elbows, kicks, and punches thrown in. I was a big fan of the kicking.


I was also a fan of the ceremony surrounding the event. To be honest, I knew very little going into the match but was fascinated by the practices.

Before the fights began, each boxer walks the perimeter of the ring to seal it off and protect them from evil during the fight. The fighter then goes to the center of the ring and kneels down facing the direction of his home, placing his hands in a praying position to begin the Wai Kroo. The Wai Kroo is a ritualistic and traditional dance carried out before Muay Thai fighters engage in the ring to show honor to the fighter's teacher, sport, and country.

The dance, as well as the fights themselves, are accompanied by a Thai band. The band's music will speed up throughout the fight to match the pace of the action.


When the first fighter walked into the ring, my mother audibly gasped. He was roughly seven years old and tiny. Were we about to be front row for a Hungry Games style throw down? Thankfully the referees were wonderful and never allowed the fights to get out of hand, checking in regularly with all the fighters to ensure they were in top shape.




As the night went on, the fighters became older and more intense. We saw knock outs, blood, and even an underdog victory from an Aussie with questionable hair choices. Yes, he had a rat tail.



My entire family found ourselves caught up in the event and cheering along with the throngs of other fans in the stadium. If you find yourself looking for some uniquely Thai entertainment (and the kind that doesn't involve men in drag), a Muay Thai fight should be a definite addition to your vacation's itinerary. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Phuket: Rainy Day Activites

Rough seas on Saturday meant that we had to change our plans of visiting Ko Phi Phi Island. Thankfully, we were able to book a private driver for the day through Mr Chai (we also used him for our airport transfers). Our driver, Joseph, was wonderful and knowledgeable about Phuket. He also didn't mind serving as our photographer throughout the day.

We started the day at Karon viewpoint which I am sure is spectacular on a sunny day. This was not one of those days. Nonetheless, it was still a pretty spot to stop. 


My mother's one wish in Thailand was to see an elephant. We aren't huge fans of animal tourism so we skipped riding the elephants and instead stopped to feed some bananas by the side of the road. My mother was elated to say the least.



Then it was off to the Big Buddah. Measuring over 45 meters tall and covered in marble, Phuket's Big Buddah is rather impressive though still under construction.



Perhaps feeling the need for a little more religion, our next destination was the Buddhist Chalong temple. Dedicated to the monks who led the fight against the Chinese rebellion in 1876, this impressive temple is a familiar tourist stop for many in Phuket. Again, I found the temples to be much more colorful than their Chinese counterparts.



My dress was deemed too short to enter the temple so a kind woman at the entrance provided me with a sarong to wear. You are also asked to remove your shoes before entering.


After Wat Chalong, we stopped for a quick break at the Methee cashew nut factory. While not worth a trip on its own, it was interesting to pause for a few minutes to see how cashews nuts are grown and processed. And of course to try the samples. We made good use of those.


From the cashew factory, we headed north to visit Bang Pae Waterfall. A local swimming spot for children, the waterfall was rather silent thanks to the rain we experienced throughout the day. A short hike through the woods took us to the waterfall which was beautiful and which I did not accurately document. So instead, here is us walking through the woods.



And located just at the base of the trail to the waterfall was one of my favorite Phuket attractions. The Gibbon Rehabilitation Project helps to reintroduce gibbons to the wild after they are snatched up by poachers. I didn't get an photos of the gibbons but we were able to snap a picture of these two monkeys.


While not the sunny day I pictured on an island, we had a blast exploring the many attractions Phuket has to offer. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Phuket Eats: Nok Noi

I'm a big fan of eating as local as possible whenever I travel. Sure, it's nice to have an English speaking staff and cloth napkins, but it's also fun to play charades with your waitstaff and feed the stray cats that roam under your table.

Nok Noi was one of those places. The menu boasted both Thai and Western food, though I'm not sure why you would bother to try anything from the second category. Their Thai food was top notch.


Our entire family ate here our third night in Phuket. We noshed on tom yum soup, yellow curry, and pineapple fried rice. Throw in a few beers and our total bill still came in at under $14 USD.




Matt and I returned here again on Saturday night for dinner. This time for green curry and rice noodles with basil. Both excellent as well.



Want to go there? Sadly, I don't have a very accurate address. It's on Patak Road, across from the Karon Temple, about half a kilometer from the beach. Look for the large sign outside.
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